Sligo native, Orla Shannon, was first introduced to singing lessons at age 13 with Anne-Marie Keaney. As a teenager, she obtained four Permanent TSB High Achiever awards based on her Royal Irish Academy exam results and was subsequently selected to sing at each respective Gala concert.
Orla went on to receive an entrance scholarship to Maynooth University where she trained with Deirdre Cooling-Nolan and graduated with first-class honours in music as part of her undergraduate degree. Whilst on her Erasmus year in Vienna, she studied solo operatic vocal lessons with Loreta Bartkeviviute-Bracamonte at Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst and performed as a soloist with Uni Wien Chor Symphonische and Uni Wien Philharmonie Orchester at Wiener Konzerthaus. In 2015, Orla returned to Maynooth University to complete a Masters in Performance and Musicology with first-class honours. Her MA thesis ‘Behind a Closed Curtain: Shostakovich’s Satires (Pictures of the Past) Op. 109’ currently resides at the Russian State Archive of Literature and Arts as part of the composer’s fund.
In the past, Orla has been a prize-winner at Dublin Feis Ceoil, Sligo Feis Ceoil, and Feis Shligigh in categories for solo voice, duet singing, violin, viola, and piano. She holds a distinction in both RIAM senior cert violin and viola and a professional certificate in youth choral conducting from DIT. She is a former decani soprano at Christ Church Cathedral Choir, a past member of the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland which toured the United Arab Emirates in 2011, and a former soprano with Maynooth University’s Chamber Choir which won the Pavarotti Trophy at Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod and recorded a CD with Brian Masterson in 2014.
As a soprano soloist, Orla has participated in masterclasses with Paul Farrington and Vijay Upadhyaya. She has sung with numerous choirs and choral societies (most regularly with Laetare Vocal Ensemble in Dublin) and was a soloist at President Bill Clinton’s honorary doctorate conferral at the Helix last year. To date, her performances have taken her to Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Prague, Budapest, Portugal and Wales. Nowadays, she studies privately with Professor Ashley Stafford in London and is working towards a Licentiate diploma to the Royal Schools of Music, London for vocal performance.
Also active as a musicologist, Orla is the current recipient of Dublin City University’s four-year Musicology PhD Scholarship. She has recently been awarded a Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholarship funded by the Irish Research Council for her doctoral research on twentieth-century Irish female composers. She now enjoys combining her expertise in performance and musicology in a lecturing capacity at Dublin City University.